Lewis Hamilton focused on racism fight as he opens up on his retirement plans

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With poise, immense natural talent and uncanny judgment, Lewis Hamilton is perhaps the greatest Formula One driver ever.

Over the past few weeks, he has beaten Michael Schumacher ’s record number of race wins in the sport.

And a fortnight ago, Lewis equalled the German legend’s record number of world championships, with seven.

There have been 750 F1 drivers since the sport began in 1950. Lewis is the only one of African Caribbean heritage.

Over the past year he has set about trying to make the sport more diverse, while also supporting the Black Lives Matter movement.

He has encouraged other drivers to back him by taking the knee – a protest move originating in American sport –before each race.

Lewis Hamilton celebrates his seventh world title

He has set up a commission of inquiry into what can be done to make the industry more diverse. And he wore a T-shirt which said “Arrest the cops who killed Breonna Taylor” – referring to the shooting of a black woman in her home in the US in March.

Lewis, said to be in line for a knighthood in the New Year, takes this fight as seriously as he takes his racing.

Such passion for the cause and the fact he is still achieving greatness on the track were reasons why the 35-year-old was named the most influential black person in Britain by The Powerlist 2021.

Hamilton raises a fist in support of the Black Lives matter movement

How does it feel to be voted the most influential black person in Britain?

It’s an absolute honour. I definitely have not been fully aware of how I’m seen in the black community within the UK. Bit by bit, you’re seeing more black people at races, which is good.

When did you decide to do something about the lack of diversity in F1?

For years I was like, “hopefully just me being here and my dad and my brother being here and succeeding, that will spark change – hopefully that will help open up doorways to others to make it through”. And I’m 14 years in, and at the end of last year I was looking at pictures of all the teams – and there is little to no diversity in any of these teams, which made me realise I’ve got to do more.

Hamilton drives during the Turkish Formula One Grand Prix

So you set up the Hamilton Commission to look into inequality…

Most people assume I’m talking about racing drivers, but that is not what it’s about. There are so many great jobs in my industry: marketing, engineering, accounting, catering. So this commission, which I’m really proud to be partnering on with the Royal Academy of Engineering, is a research project to identify the barriers for black people.

I want to look [at] Formula One in 10 years’ time and really see change, because yes, we have this Black Lives Matter moment and there’s a mic and people are hearing it, but you’ve got to really do the work to activate change.

What was the major motivation behind your decision to back Black Lives Matter so fervently?

Watching George [Floyd] for that eight minutes and 30 seconds, or whatever it was. As for so many people, it brought up so much emotion I didn’t even realise

I had clogged up and suppressed over that time.

Hamilton takes a knee on the grid

Following George Floyd’s killing, you took the knee before races. How long do you think it should continue?

There are some drivers who took the knee initially and they’re like, “How long am I supposed to do this for?”. But for me, of course, it will continue. It is very symbolic to continue to utilise that platform. It’s important to continue to do it, to keep awareness, because otherwise this thing could… go back to how it was.

So I don’t see this changing for some time.

You also got Mercedes, the most dominant team in F1, to change the colour of their cars to black.

It’s so huge that Mercedes took the silver away. That was a lot of conversation in the background… explaining to them the importance of it. I’m so proud of this team for saying, “We haven’t done enough, but we can do more and that’s what we’re going to do.”

The HR department [tells me how it’s trying to] improve… the recruitment process. That makes me proud and makes me more willing to fight for them on the track.

It would have been very easy for your campaigning to prove a distraction…

I don’t know if you saw the Breonna Taylor shirt I wore. But I was like, “I’ve got to get to the end of this race first so that I can stand on top of that podium and utilise this moment”.

Breonna Taylor was shot dead earlier this year

You’ve said you’ll probably drive for another three years. What happens to this campaign when you bow out?

You’ll hardly ever see me on the track, but I’m in discussions now with Liberty [Formula One owner Liberty Media] and Formula One to try and help them progress in the right direction.

I’ll probably do that as a side job and have another professional area that I work in. I honestly couldn’t be more excited about it. On one side, I don’t want the time to ever go by fast. On the other, I can’t wait till I start this new chapter of my life.



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